Taos philanthropist delivers $1 million

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The new executive director of Taos Community Foundation — Lisa O’Brien — said she set a big goal for herself after taking the helm in September.

“I wanted to bring in $1 million in my first year — a $1 million endowment for TCF,” O’Brien said.

She reached her goal with lightning-fast speed.

At a recent lunch at Lambert’s — longtime Taos resident and former TCF board member Wes Patterson told O’Brien he was giving the organization the money — $1 million.

It’s a milestone gift for TCF — the largest single gift in the group’s history.

“This marks a new point for the organization,” said O’Brien. “People want to be a part of it. It’s new momentum.”

To be sure, (and O’Brien readily admits) outgoing executive director Elizabeth Crittenden-Palacios had much to do with laying the foundation for the organization to be in the position for a gift of this size.

Palacios, named The Taos News “Citizen of the Year” at Oct. 12th’s Tradiciones event, retired April 25th after a 15-year run. She took TCF from its earlier days of struggle, with assets of a few hundred thousand dollars, to a strong force in the community with assets of almost $8 million.

With Patterson’s gift — a gift by both he and his wife Stacy Quinn — the organization’s endowment is now just under $9 million.

O’Brien, who has been at TCF for 11 years, 10 of those as its grants director, has new goals now. She and the group’s four employees are plowing ahead toward those goals. She said there is much work to be done.

Patterson’s journey

Patterson left the TCF board years ago after a serious brain injury occurred in a violent incident at his Taos home. He was brutally attacked by a group of purported gang members. Patterson underwent extensive treatment in Michigan for his injuries and has largely recovered. His doctor, he said, was surprised at how well he recovered. The event didn’t sour his taste for Taos.

“Taos Community Foundation makes an important difference in Taos,” Patterson said. “It’s just getting started. Elizabeth built it up wonderfully — it was a long, hard path.”

The 69-year-old said New Mexico has always been in his blood. Landing in Taos permanently was a journey that took him to many parts of the country first.

Patterson’s family roots in New Mexico began before statehood in 1912. His mother’s family came to Mosquero in 1905, while his dad’s family landed in Logan. The family weaved through stints in Springer, and later, Portales — where Patterson graduated from high school.

“Very few colleges had initiated computer majors to engineering students,” said Patterson. “One of the very first was Michigan State.” He added that he received a “critical scholarship” at Michigan State, and by his sophomore year had learned enough to work at the school’s computer center with a new $3 million mainframe — a huge sum in the late ‘60s.

The computer and engineering natural would later work for Ford’s new computer operation in Detroit; take a job after graduation for GE in Phoenix; and land at Motorola to join its new microprocessor business.

“Seeing that Motorola was not going to catch up with Intel, I looked for a Silicon Valley startup,” Patterson said.

Patterson joined tech company Xilinx in San Jose, California, as one of its founders. Xilinx’s current market value is about $3 billion.

But New Mexico called Patterson to Taos, where he’d often visited his grandparents and their orchard near Rinconada. Patterson would build a home near downtown and meet Quinn, a fifth-grade teacher from Ranchos. The couple has one daughter and two granddaughters.

In addition to TCF, Patterson has made donations toward the St. James Episcopal Church’s expansion and to environmental group Amigos Bravos.

“My largest step in Taos came through hiring Elizabeth and working to create the TCF through structural organization and building finances. Today, I continue to look more broadly for paths to help a wide group of Taoseños through my million-dollar contribution. I’m just trying to help people.”

TCF snapshot

Since TCF was founded more than 15 years ago, it has raised nearly $24 million for endowments and community activities. In its annual report, the organization said it has awarded nearly $8 million in community grants to schools and other groups and has awarded $6 million toward youth clothing and products.

Its giving in 2015-2016 has affected basic needs, community advocacy, creativity and culture, environmental causes, health, youth and education.

More information is available at taoscf.org.

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